Flowers, candy, pretty cards, gifts, love and romance in the air…that’s what Valentine’s Day is all about…right? At least, that’s what the celebration has become in our modern-day society. What is the real story behind Valentine’s Day?
Most sources believe that Saint Valentine’s Day began with a feast in honor of an early Christian martyr named Valentinus and is celebrated in mid-February to coincide with his burial. Some believe it may also be celebrated at this time in an effort to Christianize the pagan Roman celebration of Lupercalia – a fertility festival related to agriculture, while others deny this link.
Saint Valentinus is remembered as a loving, compassionate and heroic person.
He was a priest during the time when the Emperor Claudius II was persecuting the church, around 250 AD. Claudias had issued an edict that young men were not to marry, as single men made better soldiers. They would not be distracted by thoughts and care of their loved ones, but could focus on their call to duty. In the very permissive society of that day (polygamy was popular), the church still viewed marriage as sacred between one man and one woman.
Valentinus believed those who were in love should be able to marry within the Christian church and remain monogamous. He defied the emperor’s orders, and performed marriages in secret.
Valentinus was caught, imprisoned, tortured and eventually killed for performing forbidden marriages and for ministering to Christians. Legend is that while Valentinus was in prison, he prayed with and saw the healing of the blind daughter of his jailer Asterius. Asterius and his entire household are said to have come to Christian faith as a result. It is widely believed that before his execution, Valentinus wrote a farewell letter to Asterius’ daughter signed “Your Valentinus.” This was the first “valentine.”
What It Means Today
The celebration of Saint Valentine’s Day has evolved from sending letters, poems, and homemade paper valentines to loved ones to a lucrative business for card publishers, florists, chocolatiers, and jewelers.
While the celebration has become more materialistic, we can grasp the opportunity to show our love and concern for others through acts of kindness and compassion. We can share God’s love with the world around us. We can make something good out of this special day.
What Does Valentine’s Day Mean to You?
Father Frank O’Gara (Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin, Ireland) said that what Valentine’s Day means to him “is that there comes a time where you have to lay your life upon the line for what you believe. And with the power of the Holy Spirit, we can do that–even to the point of death.”
Take time to reflect on what Valentine’s Day means, or can mean, to you.
Be inspired by these “love” verses from God’s Word…
Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. John 15:13
By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18
‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these. Mark 12:30-31
Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy; is not boastful; is not conceited; does not act improperly; is not selfish; is not provoked; does not keep a record of wrongs; finds no joy in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:31
Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must [forgive]. Above all, [put on] love–the perfect bond of unity. Colossians 3:12-14
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
God’s Valentine to us is and will forever be the greatest Valentine ever given, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.